There have been many well-documented tragedies involving the misuse of concert pyrotechnics. However, this life lesson comes from a less well-known story that I happened to witness.

The era is the late 1980s. The place is a former strip club which had been converted into a music venue. A classic rock and metal cover band is on stage. Their show was complete with pyrotechnics

There were a number of flash pots – metal cylinders containing ignitable flash powder which are attached by wire to a trigger mechanism (usually a footswitch) – across the stage.

The band was well into its second set when a young, drunken girl went up near the stage to dance with her friends. To the band’s credit, they avoided using any pyrotechnics when anyone was close to the stage. However, they weren’t counting on the actions of the girl.

Picture the scene. Girl with beer in one hand. Smoke in the other. Dancing. She takes the last drag on the cigarette and looks to put it out. The old “stripper stage” is about shoulder high and she sees a metal cylinder on it that, in her state, she oddly mistakes for an ashtray.

For me the image remains in slow motion to this day. Cigarette goes in….BOOOM. A flash of light. The scream. The unmistakable stink of burnt hair.

Thankfully, it didn’t end too badly. Her hair was toast but she suffered no serious burns. It also turned out she was underage so she wasn’t able to sue the band.

Still let’s learn from her mistake. Let’s not assume we know everything. Get to know about the world around you. It’s safer that way.

And please… don’t ever mistake a flash pot for an ashtray.

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